Is 'Downton Abbey' Restarting?

For Downton Abbey fans who turned into the show's Season 4 return Sunday night on PBS, the plot of the premiere may have seemed a little bit... familiar, especially to the diehard fans who have been faithfully with the show since season one. Turns out, there might actually be a reason for those feelings of déjà vu: Downton Abbey might be remaking its first season through repeated plot devices this season, as observed by Amanda Dobbins over at Vulture.

As Dobbins points out, the season — which has already begun airing in the UK — shares a lot of similar plotlines to Season 1, particularly in the sense that Mary is once again back to where she started: A cold woman mourning the loss of a recently deceased loved one. In the first season, it was the original heir to her father's estate, and this season, her new husband, Matthew Crawley. Meredith Blake at the Los Angeles Times also recognized this new Lady Mary as quite similar to the old Lady Mary we met when the show began:

Mary is deep in a state of mourning -- beautiful, glamorous, magnificent mourning. It's an ice queen version of Lady Mary we haven’t seen in a while, if ever. Even back in her bitter single-girl days, Mary was more haughty than heartbroken, but now her frostiness is heightened by a real sense of loss. Not to be insensitive, but she looks pretty great being miserable, in a wan, waif-model way, staring vacantly out the window and sulking around Downton in her fabulous black frocks.

And Joe Heim, at the Washington Post :

Mary’s in mourning, of course, though mourning would seem to require a heart, and that is one body part she never quite seemed to possess. But we’ll have to give her the benefit of the doubt. Mourning sort of becomes Mary. At least its better than the 50 shades of disdain that used to constitute her emotional range.

Though Matthew's death was shocking and out of place plotwise (and mostly due to Dan Stevens' desire to leave the series), Dobbins observes that it does sort of reset things for Mary's character this season, and open the door for new suitors to potentially create a love story even more fun to watch than that of Matthew and Mary. As Vulture's Dobbins writes:

This formula might seem lazy — it might even be a little lazy — but consider how often we solve major problems (usually related to a cable box) by the very same logic. Downton Abbey is just hitting the reset button. This could actually work!

It does make sense. Add in some interesting plots surrounding the other players in the show (love triangles galore!) and we might have ourselves a very interesting season. Matthew who?

Head on over to Vulture to read Dobbins' full piece on the premiere.